Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” as Want to Read:
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  102,841 ratings  ·  3,561 reviews
It is a tale of revolution, of the rebellion of a former penal colony on the Moon against its masters on the Earth. It is a tale of a culture whose family structures are based on the presence of two men for every woman, leading to novel forms of marriage and family. It is the story of the disparate people, a computer technician, a vigorous young female agitator, and an ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 14th 2005 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published April 1966)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Amber Dunten Manuel is a native speaker of Russian. Remember his "other grandmother was Tatar, born near Samarkand, sentenced to re-education on Oktyabrskaya…moreManuel is a native speaker of Russian. Remember his "other grandmother was Tatar, born near Samarkand, sentenced to re-education on Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya, then 'volunteered' to colonize in Luna." The way he speaks reflects that, like the way he never uses articles like "a" or "the." Russian doesn't have them, and so Russian speakers stereotypically leave them out when speaking English. Heinlein uses Manuel's speech patterns to continually remind you that he's not a native English speaker. Like for example, when Mike asks about a joke and says, "Not funny?" and Manuel's answer is "Very not." That's a very Russian way to phrase it, and a native English speaker would probably never say, "very not." And he throws in a few actual Russian words here and there, like "bolshoi," to make it a little clearer. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  102,841 ratings  ·  3,561 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
TANSTAAFL = There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

My three favorite books of all time are (in no order) Heart of Darkness, The Dispossessed, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

When I first read this years ago I loved it, I could not put it down. As Stranger in a Strange Land was a Robert A. Heinlein vehicle for theology, so is Moon is a Harsh Mistress to ideology. And just as The Fountainhead is the better, though less epic, of the pair with Atlas Shrugged, so is Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ah, Heinlein: SF's great paradox artist. I am fairly certain that I have personally held every possible wrong viewpoint on the man. Namely, that he was:

1) A radically forward-thinking visionary of libertarianism
2) A raging fascist, homophobe, and misogynist
3) Any point on the sociopolitical spectrum in between.

It's not my fault. Over the course of his career, Heinlein seemed to espouse every possible viewpoint on religion, government, and gender relations (obviously, he liked to stick to small
mark monday
do you play games where you know the outcome of the game itself is without question... where any fun to be had is not so much in the winning - that's predetermined - but in figuring out how exactly you will win, what moves you will make, how you will overcome all those minor hurdles along the way? that's sometimes how i feel when playing chess with some folks. for me, it's not the most exciting thing in the world; it's a little eye-rolling. i think others may have more excitement when playing a ...more
Imagine a prison colony on the Moon
Now add a new and updated twist on the American war of independence
A self aware computer that actually runs the colony
A non-political computer engineer
A beautiful freedom fighter
A politically cynical professor
The birth of a (new) nation
And you have one of the best hard science fiction tales ever !

image: description

Prison History
My Grandfather Stone claimed that Luna was only open prison in history. No bars, no guards, no rules—and no need for them. Back in early days, he
J.L.   Sutton
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of the presents for my mother this Christmas was an Amazon Echo (Alexa). Having recently reread Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I couldn't stop thinking about the parallels between the awakened computer, Mycroft (Mike) in this novel and Alexa. This connection was reinforced when people kept asking Alexa to tell a joke. While he helps the former convict Lunar settlers in a rebellion against Earth, MIke's obsession remains fixated on jokes (and whether they are funny only once, ...more
Manuel Antão
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1991, 2017
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

On How to Spin a Top-Notch Yarn of Bullshit: "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Robert A. Heinlein

The usual pretty crude pneumatic sex-fantasies cropped up... But women actually have a pretty dominant role in Heinlein's lunar society... It's a penal colony, and Heinlein reckons that means there are going to be far fewer women then men there - so he's come up with a system called 'line-marriage'... wherein a few women in a household
Apr 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
DNFed it at 55 % or so. I can't believe that this difficult to read and difficult to follow story is so highly rated on Goodreads.

The story is so painstakingly revealed, yet there are more questions than answers. The coup prepared by the oppressed moon dwellers seems to take forever.

Each successful book has its own audience, or should I say, readership. Maybe only the hardcore sci-fi crowd rated this beast of a book.

Maybe the usual romance reading housewives had a hand in rating this book 4 or 5
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What do you want us to do? Throw rocks at them?

Nah, but we could have a tea party.

Wow. I'm still amazed at how good this Revolution novel has held up over the years. I had read it twice before this latest re-read, but it hasn't lost any of its charm.

Of course, I love Heinlein's heavy reliance on self-reliance, libertarianism, and TANSTAAFL. I'm lucky to have read him early so as to be fully indoctrinated in this gung-ho politicism of Rational Anarchy and I can laugh and whoop and grin foolishly
Very disappointing: 2.5* (it's not terrible, but it's weaker than books I award 3*, and I enjoyed it far less).

I know of Heinlein as a sci-fi author and had heard of some interesting language-type things that make this novel unique, principally a Lunar dialect.

Although it's mostly set in a lunar prison colony, just over 100 years after it was written (and 60 ahead of now), it's more of a political story, and the Lunar dialect is just a slightly stilted pidgin whose most notable features are the
This is an excellent novel, action-packed, exciting, and deftly-plotted, with fascinating, complex characters and some interesting science-fictional ideas. I also enjoyed reading about Luna's culture; I thought the marriage customs were particularly interesting.

One thing I noticed right off was the way the Loonies use language differently than people from earth do. In fact, it threw me at first -- I couldn't figure out what was going on or why the language was so rough and unpolished and choppy.
Dec 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
My first taste of Heinlein was Stranger in a Strange Land a few years back. It was, in a word, bad. So I gave up on Heinlein all together, figuring if his most famous and critically acclaimed book was no good, what chance did the others have? This conviction was met with protests from Heinlein fans, saying I need to read some "good" Heinlein before making the call. So I did, though it took me an unusually long time to finish. I just couldn't get into it. The characters were two-dimensional and ...more

Robert Heinlein was a good friend of AI legend Marvin Minsky (check out his people page! It's interesting!), and I've heard that they often used to chat about AI, science-fiction, and the connections between them. Here's a conversation I imagine them having some time between 1961, when Stranger in a Strange Land was published, and 1966, when The Moon is a Harsh Mistress appeared:

"Bob, this book's not so bad, but I felt it could have been so much
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress begins, promisingly enough, with a conversation between the sentient computer Mike and the mechanic Mannie, our protagonist, about the subjective and paradoxical nature of humor. It then segues into a revolution whereby the Moon, a penal colony used primarily as a farm to grow wheat to feed Earth's beleaguered masses, attempts to become an independent state. The revolution is planned and executed primarily by Mike, essentially an omniscient God, and everything which ...more
Fantastic! I won't be able to do this book justice in a review, but it really is one of the best I've ever read.

The language is brilliant and makes you feel that you really are living on the moon. The Loonies are interesting and the plot kept me completely absorbed and desperate to hear what happened next throughout.

One of the best revolutions I've ever had the pleasure to read. Highly recommended!
I feel like I just took a psychedelic trip culturally through the 60s in a dream of the life in the future. I found the book to be very reflective of the culture and philosophies of the 60s projected to the 2000s. In some ways Heinlein was ahead of his time. I found myself impressed with his treatment and characterization of the sentient AI. There was a lot of unexpected philosophy in the storytelling where they are discussion the behaviors of crowds, and people and greed and motivations. I ...more
Dec 10, 2014 rated it liked it
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress: Soap-box on the Moon
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Heinlein’s libertarian creed is TANSTAAFL ("There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"), and this book is probably the most complete expression of his political ideas about self-government, attempts to empower women while still being incredibly sexist and condescending, and some pretty good hard SF extrapolation of what a moon colony’s technology, politics and economy might be like. Oh yeah, and there
Sep 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
“Chaotic crossed with psychotic.”
Disappointed. I read this story fifty years ago and loved it. On re-reading it now, I found it not only trite, but disturbing. This is going to be long, but I must justify dropping a former five-star rating to two. (I gave a star back for literary merit. Heinlein was a great storyteller.)
“He really did think he was Sherlock Holmes’s brother Mycroft … nor would I swear he was not; ‘reality’ is a slippery notion.”
The star of the story is Mike, more properly
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a classic SF story of the moon fighting for its independence from Earth, with a lot of parallels to the American Revolution. Heinlein has a political conversation with himself here, definitely coming down on the side of Libertarianism, but also acknowledges & points out the holes in his arguments himself. I've read some rants about Heinlein pushing his politics & I disagree with them. I think he's doing more questioning than pushing & that leads to some fun with the ...more
Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, audiobooks, 2011
I read Stranger in a Strange Land twice. I loathed it with a passion the first time I read it, sometimes in the Eighties. I tried again in 2008 when it was a selection for one of my GoodReads groups. I thought maybe I was missing something, so I decided to go for the re-read. It was just as awful the second time. Because of my experience, I vowed I would never read Heinlein again. Several people told me that Stranger in a Strange Land wasn't really his best work and that I should try The Moon Is ...more
Kelly McCubbin
Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is quite possibly Heinlein's most politically charged book. People speak of Stranger in a Strange Land as being socially revolutionary, but this book is both that (polygamous marriage to form extended families, murder generally allowed, but insults to women punishable by death) and politically charged (Libertarian, Libertarian, Libertarian, though not exactly that kind of loopy American Libertarian Party kind, but a kind based more strictly on a dismantling of governmental power).
It is a
Ivana Books Are Magic
Sep 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
As cynical as I have become about revolutions, this novel managed to warm my heart. This story about Loonies (residents of Luna i.e. the Moon) rebelling against Earth government is so well written it is really a crime to miss it. As a big a crime as not starting a revolution when revolution is due. If you want to feed your inner rebel with a delicious story of lunar colony rebelling against mother Earth, then what are you waiting for? If you’re feeling philosophical, then this might be a good ...more
I’ve read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress twice in twenty years. Two decades between readings and it still holds up surprisingly well. Heinlein’s Lunar Revolution, his benevolent AI, Mycroft (aka Mike), and Professor de la Paz’s ideas for government were all exactly how I remembered them. Yet I found that my favourite part of the rereading experience was the tale it told about me.

When I read this book the first time, I was an idealistic youth who believed that change was possible and worth
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a classic SF story of the moon fighting for its independence from Earth, with a lot of parallels to the American Revolution. Heinlein has a political conversation with himself here, definitely coming down on the side of Libertarianism, but also acknowledges & points out the holes in his arguments himself. I've read some rants about Heinlein pushing his politics & I disagree with them. I think he's doing more questioning than pushing & that leads to some fun with the ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I read this first when I was young...we're talking young-young here, and my memories of it were of a sort of space opera. I'd remembered it along with many of Heinlein's "teen" or youth books. When I mentioned this it was pointed out to me (rather forcefully by some) that my memories were...incomplete.

Well, they were. While a young reader will see a "space rebellion" here the story itself is a well written tale of political science and human nature. Heinlein gives a very well done debate and/or
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
The opening chapter of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress presents an intriguing character study; Mike is a computer who wants to grow up. Mike doesn't understand humor or human nature but he wants to learn and he's got a willing teacher in the form of his assigned engineer, the clever but casual Mannie. Sound interesting? Do not get your hopes up (DNGYHU!)

Because this novel isn't about Mike's quest to make sense of humanity, it's about a libertarian revolution on the moon! (Liberty! Economic
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

My first experience of Heinlein hadn’t been the best. I did appreciate Starship Troopers, but didn’t love it. This is not the case with this novel - far from it.

Where to start? There is So much. What seems at first a straightforward science fiction story is in fact a mixture of different genres, combining revolution, politics, philosophy, adventure and suspense, all this seasoned with historical, scientific and literary references, especially from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. With so many
Jul 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: speculations
My favorite Heinlein novel - a great revolution story, a great AI story, and a great Hard Sci-Fi, if the science in question is political.

What I learned from this book:
1. History bends and melts over time.
2. The first AI we meet might not be intentional.
3. Throwing rocks can get serious over interplanetary distances.
4. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a classic science fiction novel by Heinlein, published in the 60’s. My first experience with Heinlein was about a year ago when I read Stranger in a Strange Land and that was quite a mixed bag. I had enjoyed the first half but hated the second half which I remember as being primarily monologues and mysticism.

I liked this book much better. I kept waiting for the monologues, but happily they didn’t appear. There’s still plenty of social and political commentary,
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audio, narrated by Lloyd James, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Lloyd James brought this story to life. His voice for Manuel was perfect and he gave each character a personality.

I thoroughly enjoyed this sci-fi retelling of the American Revolution featuring an AI sentient computer, rocks, the harsh environment of the Moon and some interesting look at a new civilization that has morphed into something the Earth never thought it would.

Humorous and entertaining. This isn't a deep
Reading this book in 2018, especially in the wake of the seismic shifts in our collective conversations about misogyny and rape culture and consent, must be a monumentally different experience than reading it in 1966, when it was published, would have been.

I admire Heinlein’s incredibly detailed, throughly considered approach to how a revolution could occur in the very specific and finely-drawn Lunar society he created. I love his creation of the AI character, Mike, and I wholeheartedly believe
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Mote in God's Eye (Moties, #1)
  • Foundation (Foundation, #1)
  • The Forever War (The Forever War, #1)
  • Childhood's End
  • Ringworld (Ringworld, #1)
  • Rendezvous with Rama (Rama, #1)
  • I, Robot (Robot, #0.1)
  • Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1)
  • Dune (Dune, #1)
  • The Fountains of Paradise
  • Gateway (Heechee Saga, #1)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (Space Odyssey, #1)
  • Snow Crash
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz (St. Leibowitz #1)
  • The Martian Chronicles
  • The Stars My Destination
  • Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1)
  • Lord of Light
See similar books…
Robert Anson Heinlein was an American novelist and science fiction writer. Often called "the dean of science fiction writers", he is one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of "hard science fiction".

He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of literary quality. He was the first SF writer to break into
“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.” 593 likes
“Don't explain computers to laymen. Simpler to explain sex to a virgin.” 98 likes
More quotes…